Covenant Health addresses hospital capacity in rural areas


LUBBOCK, Texas — Trauma Service Area B reported above the 15 percent hospital capacity threshold for the ninth straight day on Tuesday. The region is comprised of 22 counties, including Lubbock. Hospital capacity being used on COVID-positive patients is now at 21 percent.

The Covenant Health Systems has multiple hospitals across the South Plains, including locations in Lubbock, Levelland and Plainview. Regional Chief Medical Officer for Covenant Health, Dr. Craig Rhyne said having so many facilities is beneficial because they may continue to expand to accommodate more patients. He added that healthcare workers are doing a fantastic job, but the facilities are beginning to fill up.

“I’m not seeing it peak out. I’m not seeing that number flatten out,” Dr. Rhyne said.

The region now has 17 available ICU beds and 306 available hospital beds, according to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services. Out of more than 1,500 staffed beds, 321 are patients with COVID-19.

“We have had to substantially increase our COVID-19 bed capacity, both med surge and ICU, to deal with the increasing numbers,” Dr. Rhyne said.

Dr. Craig Rhyne said Covenant Hospital Levelland is a 20-bed hospital, with about half of those now converted for COVID-19 use. He said Covenant Health Plainview has about 60 beds, but many of those have also been converted for coronavirus patients and are currently in use.

“Levelland in particular does not have ICU capacity or significant ventilator capacity. Plainview has some ICU and ventilator capacity so they’re able to do different things,” Dr. Rhyne said.

Hale County has also seen a spike in cases over the past month, with more than 2,500 total cases as of Monday. Since both counties are part of Trauma Service Area B, they’ve had to scale back on the reopening of businesses.

“My biggest concern is that the hospitals in the region will not have us as a backup if we continue to have more and more saturation here in Lubbock,” Dr. Rhyne said.

While some areas are seeing a rise in cases, Borden County — home to about 600 people — has only reported four cases, according to Borden County Judge Ross Sharp.

“I wasn’t surprised, I always thought it was a matter of time before it got here,” Sharp said.

Borden County can still conduct business as usual, at 75 percent capacity. Judge Sharp said he filed an attestation form to the state since the county has fewer than 30 cases. He said the county still relies on other areas for health care since there isn’t a hospital in Gail, the County Seat.

“Our nearest hospitals would be in Snyder or Lamesa and then if you needed intensive care because of COVID, then of course it would be Lubbock,” Judge Sharp said.

Dr. Rhyne said he is hopeful that all patients can stay in West Texas for treatment.

“They’re a long way from home in a strange city with no real family support when we have to do that, and again, that’s what we’re trying desperately to avoid,” Judge Sharp said.

Dr. Rhyne also addressed claims that the majority of patients in area hospitals are from outside the region, saying that is not true. A vast majority are from West Texas, and one-third of patients in the hospital are positive for COVID-19.

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